Walking in Eternity: the Editor's Perspective
We’re talking somewhere in the region of 15 years ago that I was shepherding Walking in Eternity into the world, so hazy recollections are all I have, I’m afraid.
I don’t remember the initial pitch that Dale sent for WinE, but his comments about firing off a second one at short notice that I was much more excited about does ring a few bells for me. That I rejected his first pitch is no reflection on Dale, more the seat of my pants approach to the project I was taking.
Walking in Eternity was a project where I was after the wildest ideas I could get. Sid James as the Doctor, Barbara Windsor as his companion and Basil Brush as the Master? Yes please! A comic strip featuring (and written by) the Doctor from the Timebase fan videos that were popular at the time, and illustrated by Roger Langridge? Absolutely!
I’ve always been a light touch editor, relying more on instinct than formal training. I know what I like, even if I don’t know why I like it. I trust my collaborators to deliver the goods, and who would fit well in a given project. I copy-edit to within an inch of a story’s life, but unless I find a plot problem, I generally trust in the writer’s judgement. Why commission someone if you’re going to demand wholesale changes to fit your own vision? I’m an editor, not a co-writer.
With the earliest charity books I was involved in, when I was green, and much less plugged in to the scene, I and my co-editors had an open submission policy, no doubt inspired by Virgin’s own with the New Adventures range. We could see a thriving community of fan writers, many who had aspirations to write for the official range, honing their skills on the internet and in fanzines. I received a huge number of submissions, but also invited the cream of the crop from previous collections I’d been involved in, or those whose style seemed to mesh with my own aesthetics.
I started out by doing a small amount of proof-reading for Mark Phippen and Helen Fayle’s Perfect Timing. When that proved to be successful, Perfect Timing 2 was mooted, but due to an impending birth, Mark felt he had to withdraw, and Helen did not want to continue alone, so I stepped forward to co-edit, and worked on a revised and expanded perfect bound edition of the first volume. The following year (1999?), I decided to do another fanthology, but without the compromise of co-editing, and that became Walking in Eternity.
Around the same time, Mark Phippen had been enticed by Shaun Lyon into doing another book – Missing Pieces. Ever competitive, I wanted to make sure that my book was very different. The concept behind Missing Pieces was to write stories that filled in gaps in continuity – adventures between the ones we’ve seen. I decided (independently, I believe) that WinE would be very much the opposite. I asked writers to throw off the shackles of continuity and make me something different. If that meant alternative Doctors, there was a place for that. If it meant looking at Doctor Who through a different lens, I was all for it. At the time, I described the two books thus: “If Missing Pieces is about building a big brick wall of continuity, with its stories as the grouting, to make the best damn wall you can have, WinE is about taking that beautiful big continuity wall, and setting dynamite at the base, blowing it up and then building something new and equally lovely out of the bits.” I thought that was a reasonable juxtaposition to make, but was asked to cease and desist, so I stopped saying it after that. : )
We remained friends throughout, and I did actually write a story for Missing Pieces, so I hope it is clear I think there’s a place for both views. Even if one approach appeals to me more than the other. Who fandom has always had such divides. Rad and Trad. Gun and Frock. When I commission a story, it is because I’m either really excited about the pitch or familiar with the writer and know they will deliver the goods. Both, if possible.
There are certain writers I will always invite to pitch, because I know that they’ll come up with something entertaining and unpredictable. Off the top of my head: Simon Bucher-Jones, Kelly Hale, Alan Taylor, Philip Purser-Hallard, Sarah Hadley, Jonathan Dennis, Paul Magrs, Mags L Halliday and Dale Smith is definitely on that list. Any of my anthologies that don’t feature any of these names, it’s because they were busy, or not interested at the time.